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Last November Conrad, my father-in-law, sent me an email, a long one, stating that he was in love. Considering that his studio apartment was situated in Point Loma, a short 15-minute drive from our home, and that we had just shared dinner with him last weekend, I was perplexed. He hadn’t even mentioned that he was dating anyone.

From reading his novel-length email I learned her name was Eunice. They had met four weeks earlier at a singles’ party across the border, in Tijuana. He had seen it advertised on craigslist.

“I was supposed to hook up with a different lady who had sent me her photo, but she never showed. Eunice was very aggressive.”

That was a detail I could’ve done without. I tried not to imagine what he meant.

He attached pictures, glossy ones featuring Eunice in a cluttered kitchen. She was wearing a yellow halter dress and smiling at the camera. There was another one in which she was sitting in a wooden chair, Conrad’s massive foot situated on her knees. She is holding a toenail file. I give her props for touching his toes. There are more photos, the other ones filled with the smiling faces of three children, a girl and two little boys around the same age as my own kids.

She is 31, he writes — my age — but wise beyond her years.

“Your dad has lost his mind,” I yell to Aaron, my husband, who is in the other room watching a documentary on a family of surfers.

He shouts back, “Tell me something I don’t already know.”

I read him the message. His capacity to be shocked is nonexistent. Nothing the old guy does rattles my husband anymore. Conrad comes over the following Sunday. He seems preoccupied.

“I’m getting married,” he blurts out.

“First, we have to wait for her to get divorced,” he adds.

I see that as a red flag, that and the fact that neither of them has a clue what the other is saying. She speaks Spanish and he only understands English.

Who needs conversation when you have love? She wants to have his babies, he tells us. I am alarmed. Mostly over the thought of my father-in-law having sex but also the concept that a woman he’s only known for a month has mentioned children. I wonder if Conrad is mistaken. Possibly he messed up the translation and she said something much more average. “Pass me the coffee” or “I like to read romantic novels.”

It only takes me a few days to begin teasing my husband about his new 31-year-old mommy.

“Will it be weird if and when you have an infant sibling?” I ask.

He tells me to shut up.

“I cannot wait until your mom starts dating again!” he says.

I doubt her foray into love will be nearly as comical.

“We’re going to be like the cast of Modern Family, only I don’t have a cool gay brother-in-law,” I tell him. “I guess we can pretend your youngest brother is gay.”

We laugh. All we can do is laugh. We don’t want to worry about Conrad. We need the old guy to be happy. I am cool with any of his choices as long as he doesn’t end up on our couch.

We try not to think of his last ill-fated relationship that was also sparked over craigslist, a woman with shifty eyes and leathery skin who talked more with our Labrador retriever than anyone else in the family. The same lady would call me at odd hours to discuss the intimate details of her love life with Conrad, the mental images of which I may never be able to burn from my mind.

By the end of November, Conrad has moved Eunice into a bigger and nicer apartment closer to the border. Aaron doesn’t comment; neither do Conrad’s two other sons. Everyone seems to think that it’s normal that their 63-year-old father is spending all of his free time in Mexico with a woman he met on craigslist with whom he can only communicate via Google translate.

Finally, I voice my concerns to Conrad. “I worry that you’re rushing into things,” I mention, trying my best not to sound judgmental. “You’re paying for her rent and food now. You’re supporting her children. You don’t speak the same language. She’s still married. Do you see how it looks from the outside? I worry that she loves you because you are willing to rescue her, and frankly that’s not good enough. You are amazing and deserve to be loved for the person you are, not what you can provide.”

He sighs and gives me a look that says, “Clearly you don’t get it.”

In December, he finds a large rental home near Rosarito in a place called San Antonio. He packs up his apartment and moves there with her and the kids. He is tired of going back and forth across the border. He is fully consumed with love. It’s all he talks about. I will mention to him that my kids have a recital at school. He will say to me, “Did I tell you how beautiful her eyes are?” He’s like a 14-year-old boy.

When Christmas rolls around, Conrad assumes we will spend it in TJ. I tell him absolutely not. I put my foot down on this one. “I am not spending Christmas in TJ with a woman you haven’t even been dating for two months.” He is hurt. I don’t care. I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid.

“Do you realize how many murders there were in TJ last month? Do you really want your grandkids to be part of that statistic?” I am being dramatic. I don’t care.

Conrad spends Christmas Eve with his new family and Christmas Day with ours. While my kids are opening their presents, Conrad explains how he and Eunice didn’t focus on the material side of Christmas and how Eunice doesn’t let them watch TV or play video games and how well behaved they are. For the rest of the day, he makes me feel like a consumerist shell of a person and a terrible parent. Before he leaves, he urges the kids to fill up a bag with some of their toys for Eunice’s children. Five-year-old Amelia cries and tells him, “Mommy made me get rid of some toys already.” We had a hefty Goodwill donation right before Christmas. He reminds her how much she has and how little they have. He has a point, but still, I am annoyed.

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Comments

bajajulio Nov. 23, 2010 @ 7:43 p.m.

Great Story. I live in TJ. Will look up "La Roca" and see what I can donate. TJ & Mexico has much to offer. Do visit. Crime and violence is also widely prevelent in the USA as well as MX. This should not keep you from living your dreams.

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monaghan Nov. 26, 2010 @ 10:56 a.m.

Siobhan is quite the writer.

Every other sentence carries the possibility of a hideous occurrence that never materializes and repressed dark feelings. We're not sure if the guy with tattoos on his face is a member of the Salva Trucha or if the family actually got lice. The message for Bajajulio is about "living your dreams." For me, well, it's open-ended, but it feels as ominous as it does larky.

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David Dodd Nov. 26, 2010 @ 12:31 p.m.

Craig's List, Tijuana, Singles Party, and "In-Love"...

All you need to add is lice and transgendered prostitutes. And of course, two days in jail for a traffic infraction. Because what Tijuana story doesn't include two days in jail and a $1,000 dollar fine? I must be the luckiest man on Earth, and certainly the luckiest person in Mexico. In almost two decades here, I've never had lice, have gotten out of several infractions with a twenty-dollar bill tucked neatly underneath my identification, managed to raise three children without having to rely on a Craig's List Singles Party, and have been lucky enough to have never been accosted by wiener-gifted chicks in short skirts.

And my advice, take it or leave it, is to avoid people with tattoos on their faces, I can't recall anything good coming from anyone that didn't have the good sense to politely decline the invitation to permanently write on a portion of their skin that cannot be easily covered up during a job interview. But you know, that's just me. Everyone else's mileage may vary.

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Fulano de Tal Nov. 28, 2010 @ 2:11 p.m.

What is the point of telling us your personal experiences, as if what happened to you is somehow representative of the entire population of visitors to Tijuana?

If you took 5 bullets out of a 6-shot revolver, spun the cylinder, pointed it at your head, pulled the trigger and the gun did not fire, would you believe you are justified in telling everyone that playing Russian Roulette is perfectly safe?

Are you trying to deny that Eunice did not spend 2 days in jail for what is a simple moving violation, even in Mexico? Are you trying to deny that Conrad's car is not in the hands of some Mexican cop?

You admit to bribing Mexican police with $20 bills, which is a felony in Mexico. Why don't you also admit that you do not speak for everyone else?

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 15, 2011 @ 7:46 a.m.

and have been lucky enough to have never been accosted by wiener-gifted chicks in short skirts.

refriedgringo = +1

VERY FUNNY!

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 15, 2011 @ 7:44 a.m.

Siobhan is quite the writer.

============ She sure is!

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nan shartel Nov. 26, 2010 @ 6:46 p.m.

i perceive this as satire...and ur trying out ur script for an "in poor taste" Saturday Night Live skit

next week u can put up a sweet and sour rants when some other unloved family member falls in love with a Muslim

and discuss how much fun it is to be fully enveloped and sweating in a 100% Egyptian cotton burka in 100+ degree summers and learning to make falafels with ones eyes peering thru a cloth cage

u will of course quickly learn Farsi...and find the beauty in poems by Rumi reading them in the original Persian

if this isn't a "tongue in cheek" piece shame on u

JMO

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Silvergate1 Nov. 28, 2010 @ 1:55 p.m.

Great story about Tijuana that the average person never knows about. OK, you mention that Eunice is still married. Where is her husband and how does he fit into this scene? Keep up the great work!

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artful1 Dec. 1, 2010 @ 1:43 p.m.

Siobhan, Excellent writing,honest,touching,human.Your style totally engaged me and the people I turned the article on to, several being Mexican nationals...and in response to a few above comments that felt that you were slamming Mexico, go back and read the story, perhaps you have missed something (like your heart? brain?) because I so get the car being taken away scenario, it happens all the time down here, you just can't let nationals drive your car with U.S.plates. Also "got" the lice thing and had to chuckle as I and my children have had the same experience of passing that hat around with smiling giggling children. I loved the story. It should be a movie. Best wishes and more power to You, Conrad, Eunice and your families. From a gringa who lives in Baja

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Kathryneileen Dec. 3, 2010 @ 7:37 p.m.

I loved how the author's attitude towards this man changed and became much more compassionate and understanding. Who could blame him for living in TJ? May he find the love he needs.

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 14, 2011 @ 8:48 a.m.

Twenty years later, he is an alcoholic and drug user, they have a passle of kids, and they have to live with his mother because he doesn't work.

20%+ of CA is unemployed or under employed.

Employment is not entirely in the control of the one who is looking for work. Drug problems won't help.

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 15, 2011 @ 7:50 a.m.

The point is, Eunice may one day see Conrad as the rest of us do--when she gets her head out of the clouds.

Except the writer also had your view>> in the begining. As the story unfolded she changed her view and really came to admire Conrad.

I was expecting this to turn out really bad at the end, like Eunice played Conrad like a cheap fiddle, but that was not the case...... in any event it was interesting-gave a multi dimiensional look to the people which I did enjoy.

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